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One of my resolutions for 2019 is to read more books. And because it may be one of your resolutions, too, I've researched five book review sites to locate the highest-ranking books for 2018 and distill it down to six. They are listed as follows: 

"Educated" by Tara Westover: This is a memoir of a girl who was raised “off the grid” by Mormon survivalist parents in rural Idaho. She was self-taught and got into Brigham Young University. Her thirst for knowledge transformed her and she went on to get advanced degrees from Harvard and Cambridge. During her journey she took great risks and alienated family members. The reward in reading this book is a testimony of an irrepressible thirst to learn and to become yourself.

"There There" by Tommy Orange: A multi-generational story about 12 Native Americans traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow. Each has a different story to tell. The novel shows the painful and complex history of the Native American living in the city. It deals with an inheritance of beauty and spirituality and with the problems of addiction, abuse, and suicide.

"Asymmetry" by Lisa Halliday: This is a novel told in three different sections. It delves into the imbalances and inequalities that are in our human relations: age, power, talent, wealth, fame, geography, and justice. From a romance of a young American editor with an older writer to an Iraqi-American man on his way to visit his brother in Kurdistan, their perspectives interact and overlap.

"Washington Black" by Esi Edugyan: This book is the winner of Canada’s prestigious Giller Prize. It starts on a sugar plantation in British Barbados in the last days of brutal slavery. It quickly goes into a new world of possibility: one in which men take to the skies in hot-air balloons, dive into ocean depths, and walk across the Arctic. Most interesting, it is a world in which a white slave master’s brother and a black slave can form a strong bond. This is a tale of explorations and discovery.

"The Poet X" by Elizabeth Acevedo: This is a National Book Award Winner. Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking. But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So, when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems. Xiomara refuses to be silent.

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"Frederick Douglass" by David W. Blight: As a young man Frederick Douglass (1818–1895) escaped from slavery in Baltimore, Maryland. He was taught to read by his slave owner mistress, and he would go on to become one of the major literary figures of his time. He wrote three versions of his autobiography over the course of his lifetime and published his own newspaper. By the Civil War and during Reconstruction, Douglass became the most famed and widely traveled orator in the nation. He denounced the premature end of Reconstruction and the emerging Jim Crow era. In this remarkable biography, David Blight presents new information held in a private collection that few other historians have consulted, as well as recently discovered issues of Douglass’s newspapers. Blight tells the fascinating story of Douglass’s two marriages and his complex extended family. 

Happy reading and have a great 2019.

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Judith Dale built her career in education; continues to serve the SYV community as Santa Barbara County 3rd District representative to the Library Advisory Board; the Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital Foundation board; and as the former mayor of Buellton.

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